Segarini – My Life as an Indoor Cat Part Two; Surviving Woodrow Wilson and Commodore Robert Field Stockton

Part One can be found here

There were two passions that drove me forward when I was young, and by ‘young’, I mean YOUNG.

Music…and reading.

Unfortunately, this was during a time when children were encouraged to leave the house and stay out of mom’s hair as often as possible.

Why stay in when there was a whole world out there to explore?

Mom needs to concentrate, cook, clean, chat on the party line, or drink vodka out of a coffee cup.

Junior and Sis might get hit by a car, abducted by Aliens, or eaten by Dinosaurs…but the laundry would be done, the roast would be in the oven, and Mario’s Evil Twin would perish in a freak accident on Days of Our Lives.

If the kids get in trouble, the cops will bring them home….

Do these Police seem a Little “off” to You? Lil’ Debbie ponders an Exit Strategy

I created a hidey-hole, sanctum sanctorum under the headboard of my bed.

I had to squeeze under the bed itself to get to it, but once I did, I could sit upright and enjoy the solitude and privacy in which to indulge in my favourite sport.

Reading..

When I was told to “go out and play”, I would leave by the kitchen door, double back to the back door that opened into my 2 room ‘apartment’ in the rear of the house, and slide under the bed, where I would remain for the day.

I would reverse the process and come back in the kitchen door just before my dad got home for dinner.

The Headboard Hideout Essentials….

Gooseneck Lamp

Stack of Comics

One or Two Books

A sleeve of Saltine crackers

Package of salami or hot dogs

A box of Dots, a Three Musketeers candy bar, and a bag of Hershey’s kisses.

Coca Cola

Sometimes an apple or banana

When we moved to Monterey Avenue when I was 12, I devised a similar shelter in my bedroom closet by making a faux wall out of a cardboard fridge box, and stocked it the same way as the Headboard Hidey-Hole.

In all those years, I never got caught.

Even so, the Great Outdoors claimed me on occasion, and when it did, I embraced it with gusto. If my folks would have known the things I  got up to out there, they would have locked me in my room….

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I was very fortunate.

I grew up at a time and in a place when kids could be kids without being tethered to their parents. We were either trusted or being taught to get through our day without relying on our parents to bail us out, and if we did get in trouble, to learn how to get out.

Sink or swim, live and learn, get some life experience first hand so we could get through life without having to rely on someone to hold our hand.

Parenting was hands-on in those days. The government was too busy governing to pass laws to protect your children, and neighbors were too busy living their own lives to stare through the blinds and keep an eye on you, one hand holding the blinds out of their way, and the other on speed dial to call 911 if they saw you allow your child to ride a bike without a helmet, leave them to their own devices if you went out to dinner, or (heaven forbid) let Junior or Sis see a penis, breast, vagina, or S-E-X being performed by humans, dogs, or other animals.

Has anyone ever seen cats have sex?

Do they even bother?

…and God help you if you threw a tantrum in aisle 5 of the Piggly Wiggly or Sears, because parents could haul your sorry ass off the floor and give your butt a couple of swats, and threaten you with no dessert, or banishment to Military School or a Convent.

The kind of parenting that would get you thrown in jail these days….

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When you’re at a single-digit age, there are things that you take for granted that are so wonderful and natural, you are unaware of them until they suddenly, and without warning, take their leave, never to be yours again. When I was a boy, no matter how hot it got, (and Stockton gets plenty hot, we actually fried an  egg on the sidewalk once), no matter how hard I played, I don’t recall ever having sweat. Driving to Long Barn or Pinecrest and Dodge Ridge during the winter with my folks and spending hours playing in the snow, I never got cold. I could practically see in the dark, and I could hear my mom call me to dinner from a block away.

Did I think I had superpowers? I must have

When I was 7, I tied a tea towel around my neck, put a pair of underwear on over my pants, tucked my pants into my galoshes, and dove off the garage roof with a hearty, “Up, UP, And AWAY!!!” If I hadn’t have dragged the mattress from my bed out into the yard and put it next to the garage, I would be typing this by using a stylus clenched in my teeth. God looks after children and fools.

I was both.

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Growing Up in Stockton….

I grew up in Stockton when it was a Norman Rockwell painting. A small farm town in the middle of a vast agricultural area known as the San Joaquin Valley, we were California’s Bread Basket, not to mention fruit and vegetable basket. Far from being a white bread homestead, (the kind envisioned by Republicans who believe that America should be less than what it is), Stockton was as ethnically diverse when I was a boy as Toronto is today. The first Sikh Temple in North America was built there in 1912, The Asian population came from former railroad workers who settled in the area in the late 19th century (you HAVE to visit Al the Wop’s in Locke, California, a small community built by Chinese immigrants on the side of a Levee just Northwest of Stockton), Japanese immigrants who, even after the sadly misguided internment camps at Stockton’s fairgrounds from 1941 until 1942, decided to stay and build a life here. African Americans who migrated from the San Francisco Bay area and Mexican Americans who first came as migrant workers, and settled in Stockton for the weather, the work, and the acceptance they received from the Portuguese and Italian farmers in the Valley. Growing up, there were no prejudicial or racial issues either felt or experienced. If there were any, they did not reach me or my friends…or our parents.

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Woodrow Wilson Elementary School

One of my friends and I decided the front of the school needed two lions…or us.

Adding Class to Our School is Job One

Why aren’t Kick ball, Dodge ball, and Foursquare, Olympic events? Seriously. Why?

I remember the names of every one of my teachers here. The reason I do, is because I learned something from all of them. No one was doing their time and coasting along. They had a calling. They cared. They taught us much more than what was in the books.

Mrs. Simone in the 4th Grade became Mrs. Mattice in the 5th. With Tina and Renee

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My First Earthquake….

I was walking down the long wide hall in the main building. I was on the left side of the hallway one minute, and under a table on the right side a second later.

25 feet

Just like that.

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Wilson’s and Penny Candy….

 

Wilson’s Became Betty and Jerry’s and was Still the Best. Penny Candy was just to the right of the Dry Cleaners

In the 5th grade, a bunch of us discovered a strip mall just 3 blocks from the school. With permission slips from our parents, we were allowed to go there for lunch every day. The little place we ate at was called Wilson’s, and after Mr. Wilson passed away, Betty and Jerry’s, the elderly women who had worked for him and had inherited the little diner. I still make my cheeseburgers and fried ham sandwiches the way they made them there.

After we ate, we went next door and bought penny candy. Wax Lips, Lik-M-Aid, AbbaZabbas, Charleston Chews, Walnettos, Necco Wafers, Dots, Milk Duds, and a personal favourite, Jawbreakers.

A friend of mine and I got busted eating candy in class one afternoon. Our punishment? Armed with a yardstick and a lined paper notebook and a pencil, we had to measure the entire circumference of the block the school occupied. It took the rest of the day…but we had plenty of candy to get us through the ordeal.

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Deathball….

Not happy to just play dodge ball in a circle, we devised a dodge ball game that at least offered the opportunity for a serious injury. Up against the stucco’d wall of the back of the main building. God help you if you stood too close to the wall and took a ball to the face. Oh…right…you had to stand next to the wall. No one ever went to the hospital…that we are aware of.

Up Against the Wall

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My 2nd Earthquake….

I had gone home for lunch. This was usually either a Genoa salami sandwich on white with mayo and lettuce, and a bowl of Lipton’s chicken noodle soup, or a tunafish sandwich on white with mayo and lettuce, and a bowl of Campbell’s tomato soup. Coca Cola with the salami, Hires Root Beer with the Tunafish. On this particular day, I was going to have the Tunafish, and settled down on the floor in front of the 27 inch Zenith in the living room to watch Chris Crafts. I had left my glass of root beer on top of the TV and was about to get up to retrieve it when the room bounced about a foot into the air. The glass of root beer launched itself off of the television and landed in my soup. I finished lunch under my bed.

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The Sleepover…

I was 12. My friends and I decided to have a sleepover one night, and my mother suggested we ‘camp out’ in the back yard. So it was that 5 12 year old guys found themselves pitching sleeping bags in the yard and looking for mischief to get into. It was a perfect summer evening and someone (I don’t recall who) suggested we steal some beer from their dad’s garage, or swipe a jug of home-made wine out from under my dad’s wash basin in OUR garage. My mother overhears this and makes a further suggestion. She tells us to sit tight and retreats into the house to make some phone calls. I figure we’re busted and she’s calling everybody’s parents. I was half right.

She comes back and explains to us that if we tell her what we want to drink, she will go to the liquor store and buy us the booze. She has spoken to everybody’s mothers and they have agreed to this as long as we adhere to one rule.

“You will not leave this yard” my mother says as sternly as possible.

“Yes, Mrs. Segarini” my stalwart friends answer in unison.

So, armed with a list that includes beer, sloe gin, rum, and whisky, off to the liquor store goes my mother. She returns with pints of this and cans of that, and we are the happiest bunch of 12 year olds you could possibly imagine. We proceed to drink everything she has given us. By midnight, no one is awake.

There is a fly buzzing in my ear. I open one eye. It is incredibly bright. I open my other eye. It makes a noise like a drawbridge being raised. Slowly, my eyes focus on the scene before me. There is a pair of pants in the little tree in the middle of the back yard. One of the guys is asleep (or passed out) under the tree with his sleeping bag on his head, another is stretched out in my mother’s herb garden, and still another is flat on his back with a cat asleep on his chest. I sit up. I look around. There are pools of vomit everywhere. The door off the patio into the garage slams shut, causing an explosion in my head, then, my mother’s voice.

Rise and shine, sleepyheads!” she chirps, sounding like she is screaming at the top of her lungs. Bodies stir. There is groaning. “Who’s ready for a big breakfast?” Again, she sounds like she’s shouting. More groans. Mom takes the wooden spoon in her hand and uses it as a drumstick against the metal bowl in her other hand. It sounds like a fire truck is about to run us over. “Breakfast is served!” The thought of food reaches everyone’s brain. Stomachs begin to react. “Pancakes with butter and syrup, eggs, and lots of hot, greasy bacon!” followed by what can only be described as maniacal laughter, “Can you smell that bacon?” 

That was it.

The retching starts anew, my friends are losing what’s left in their stomachs all over the yard, and even the cat gets sprayed as it tries desperately to jump out of the way. Years later, it dawned on me…my mother…was a genius.

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Stockton Jr. High….

The Under Construction Bldg in the Lower Right Became the Auditorium…

It had started out as Stockton High School, but by the time I got there it was Commodore Robert Field Stockton Jr. High School. You can read more about Bob here. Named after a Naval man from Princeton, New Jersey, the only commonality he had with my hometown was his last name. The school would have been better suited to a name like Benjamin Holt Jr. High, Asparagus Jr. High, or Peat Dirt Jr. High, but it was not to be. It was (and is, if it’s still standing) a gothic looking edifice more suited to a shuttered insane asylum, or an episode of the Addam’s Family. That said, it was an ethnically diverse, richly quirky, hot bed of education and miss-behavior. This is where I went from straight A’s to Cs and worse. The reason? I felt I was being taught exactly the same stuff I learned in elementary school, only with bigger words. My mind wandered…and I had discovered rock and roll and a best friend named Lon Dudley.

=0=

Lonnie was the product of a broken home and an upbringing with the most liberal father a boy could want. Lon’s dad was the short order cook at the Eldorado Bowl, and worked long and hard hours. So busy was he, that by the time Lonnie was in the 8th grade, his dad had bought him a car so Lonnie could get to school and anywhere else he needed to be without his dad missing work. Lonnie was 14. There would be three cars in total by the time he moved on to high school; A 1954 Packard Clipper, a 1957 Dodge, and a 1955 Chevrolet convertible. In all the time we drove around, we were never stopped once or questioned concerning our being 2 kids far too young to drive. It was a different time. When I was 12, my Uncle Swede let me drive his beautiful 1955 Jaguar roadster around the foothills of San Jose and Morgan Hill…until I came within inches of driving it through a guard rail and off a bridge. Parents thought nothing of teaching their boys to drive as early as 8 or 9 years old in those days. Speaking of which, when I was 9, I would occasionally spend the night at my Grandmother’s when my parents needed a little ‘alone’ time. Our evening ritual before going to bed? A cup of tea, cinnamon toast, and a couple of Lucky Strikes…until she read that cigarettes may be harmful and switched to Salem’s. Me and Grandma, sittin’ in the kitchen blowing smoke rings and playing gin rummy. Sometimes I got to smoke one with her before I walked to school in the morning, and a couple of times, I found a book of matches and a couple of smokes in my lunchbox. Thanks, Grandma!

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Adventures Risking Life and Limb…in Cool Cars!

The Packard – Strong Like Bull

Once, Lonnie and I were out tooling around and decided to see if the Packard was as solidly built as we thought. It was a huge tank of a car and we often tested its steel and cast-iron mettle by running into things. One night we decided to take a shortcut through the little park in the centre of the Tuxedo Avenue traffic circle. Lonnie drove over the protective concrete blocks surrounding the little round park and halfway across, he spotted a small tree in our path. Like Batman and Robin, we nodded at each other and he pushed down on the accelerator. The tree didn’t stand a chance. We couldn’t find a dent on the Packard, but there were leaves and a few branches stuck in the rear bumper which we left there for a week or so as a reminder of our victory over botany.

 

The Dodge – Stealth Mode

The Evil that Boys Do….

The day before school started and we entered the 9th grade, our last year before high school, we were working at my dad’s store on Eldorado Street and talked about the upcoming school year. We agreed that we didn’t want to go back just yet. A plan was hatched.

After work, in the dead of night, we snuck over to the school in Lonnie’s latest illegal vehicle, a 1957 Dodge. Armed with a flashlight and a tube of epoxy, we filled every outside keyhole in the school. We didn’t go back to school until the day after we were supposed to. We were never caught. Please don’t tell anyone it was us.

=0=

We’re All Juvenile Delinquent (or Cutting School and Smoking Would Be a Lot More Fun if We Were Drunk)….

Late nights, when we didn’t have any money for hash browns and gravy at Henry’s Rolling Pin, we would climb up to the roof of the Eldorado Bowl and enter via a skylight that Lonnie always left unlocked when he helped his dad. We would go in, letting ourselves down onto the counter of the little coffee shop, Lon would fire up the grill, and we’d have cheeseburgers and milkshakes, sneaking back out before the cleaning crew got there in the morning.

One early morning we left and heard over the car’s radio that a fire had destroyed one of the fine eateries in Stockton back then called Otto’s 5 Mile House. Otto’s was located in the North end of the town where Pacific Avenue split in two and became Thornton Road if you veered right. The restaurant was right in the middle of the fork in the road and had been there since the ’30s. When we got there, all that was left was a smoldering, charred, shell of what had been one of the great local feed and watering holes. Who could forget the prime rib or chateaubriand for two with a salad of crisp iceberg lettuce, raw red onions, and an olive oil and vinegar vinaigrette with crumbled real Roquefort cheese? Anyway, we parked and ventured inside. We laughed in the face of danger…well…not really, we just didn’t think about the possibility of the whole thing collapsing on us.

The place was truly gutted. Sad wisps of steam and smoke rose from the charred remains as we made our way through the kitchen into the dining room and finally the bar.

Shop Lifting 101….

There were dozens of bottles of liquor that hadn’t exploded, tucked away in the heavy mahogany cupboards beneath the bar itself. We exchanged the Batman and Robin glance and nod, and minutes later, the trunk of the Dodge was full of pilfered booze.

It was time to go to school…no…wait…it was time for a road trip. Lon pointed the prodigious bow of the Dodge toward the foothills of the Sierra Nevada’s and off we went.

About 40 minutes later, Lonnie pulled the Dodge over to the side of the road. It was around 7:00 in the morning.

“Why are we stopped” I asked, looking over my shoulder to see if there was a CHP behind us.

“Look at the Odometer” he replied, nodding toward the Dodge’s dashboard.

I looked. “000,000.” read the Odometer.

“Wow! What happened?”.

“We have rolled it over”.

“What does this mean?”

“Trunk!”

A 7:00 am drink that led to a 3 day road trip and a lot of ‘splainin’.

=0=

The Teenage Death Wish….

Lon’s next car was a 1955 Chevy convertible. We never put the top up.

Ever.

One night, Lon decided that it could outrun a train. Befitting my station as an idiot in those days, I agreed. Now to test the theory. We drove to the outskirts of town and drove around until we found a stretch of country road that ran parallel to the tracks and then crossed them. We waited. We didn’t have to wait long. The Chevy rolled into motion as the train approached our position. Lonnie began to speed up to match the train’s speed and then gunned the Chevy into 283 life. We began to pass the train as the crossing approached…but not by much. When we flew over the tracks, I looked up to my right. The bobbing and weaving cyclop light on the front of the train was less than 6 feet away from where I sat. We just, barely, cleared the tracks before the train hurtled by.

We didn’t do that again.

=0=

The Art of Stupidity….

Climbing the massive 250 ft. Ad Art Billboard on Highway 99 and drinking a mickey of rye.

Pushing a 6ft around weather balloon full of water out in front of a car on Eldorado Street and almost causing a 3 car collision when it was hit and exploded throwing water over everything.

A bunch of us making a dummy out of straw and some old clothes and, pretending to have a fight on the corner of Mariposa and Eldorado (the same corner as the giant water balloon) tossed it into the street in front of an oncoming car, almost causing the poor driver to lose control.

I am not proud of any of these things. I am thankful I survived them, and no one was hurt. I was a jackass before being a jackass could make you a celebrity.

Ahead of my time.

And Lonnie, God bless him, survived our childhood too. Sadly he was taken down by cancer in his 40s, working at the Fox television outlet in Sacramento, far too soon, but with a full and interesting life under his belt.

=0=

All these years later, and I still value my alone time, and my love of movies, series television, documentaries, music…and reading.

These days, reading is either accomplished by eBooks or Audiobooks, because my eyesight is going the way of the Dodo Bird, music is turned up louder, and TV is downloaded and watched at my leisure sans commercials and having to sit and watch it when it actually broadcasts.

The airconditioning is on all the time, I eat when I’m hungry, I relax when I’m tired, and I sleep when I fall asleep.

My lifestyle is absurd in the face of the facts, but it’s MY lifestyle right or wrong.

I still smoke, enjoy a drink, and, if at all possible, can go for days without ever putting on pants.

You are welcome to your line-ups, cattle-car plane rides, trips to safe enclaves in dangerous places, and time away from your stuff, but for me, I will be here, asleep in front of the computer, reading comics, eating saltines and salami, and letting the world spin out of control around me.

…pants optional.

Editor’s Note – Previously published excerpts are in Italics

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Segarini’s regular columns appear here whenever someone runs head first into a glass door.

Contact us at dbawis@rogers.com

dbawis-button7giphyBob “The Iceman” Segarini was in the bands The Family Tree, Roxy, The Wackers, The Dudes, and The Segarini Band and nominated for a Juno for production in 1978. He also hosted “Late Great Movies” on CITY TV, was a producer of Much Music, and an on-air personality on CHUM FM, Q107, SIRIUS Sat/Rad’s Iceberg 95, (now 85), and now publishes, edits, and writes for DBAWIS, continues to write music, make music, and record.

2 Responses to “Segarini – My Life as an Indoor Cat Part Two; Surviving Woodrow Wilson and Commodore Robert Field Stockton”

  1. Peter Montreuil Says:

    Brought back some memories for me, except for racing the train, though. Nice work.

  2. Les Van Pelt Says:

    Great stuff. I went to Lotti Grunsky Grammer
    School. I remember Segarini families stores.
    I would have went to stagg hi but we moved to Manteca.. I was great reading you memwas.

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